Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week, Pakistan Foreign Office announced Friday, amid a string of cancellations from top global business leaders over the mysterious disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Foreign Office said Prime Minister Khan will visit Riyadh on October 23 on the special invitation of Saudi King Salman to participate in the three-day 'Future Investment Initiative' conference touted as 'Davos in the desert'. "Prime Minister Imran Khan's participation on the first day of the conference is aimed at projecting Pakistan's economic and investment potential and the Prime Minister's vision of the country in the five years to come," it said.
The Prime Minister's participation in the conference signifies our solidarity with the Kingdom in its efforts to become emerging hub of international business and investment, the statement said. The announcement comes a day after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had decided against attending the conference.
"Just met with Donald Trump and Secretary Pompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia," he tweeted. Mnuchin joined a long list of top US and global leaders, corporate executives and International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials in opting out of the conference following the disappearance of 60-year-old Khashoggi that has sparked global outrage.
Saudi Journalist Khashoggi, a well-known critic of the Saudi Crown Prince has not been seen since October 2 when he entered Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul.
He is feared to have been killed inside the mission. Britain's Trade Minister Liam Fox, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra have also pulled out of the conference. The conference is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plan to transform the oil-dependent economy.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and the heads of America's top investment firms Blackrock and Blackstone are among the leading figures who have decided to stay away. Top executives at Ford, MasterCard (MA) and Google have also pulled out, besides the CEOs of Europe's top banks HSBC, Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered.
The conference aims to host leading businesspersons, investors, corporate giants, representatives of hi-tech industry and major media outlets at one platform. Prime Minister Khan will also call on King Salman and meet the Crown Prince Muhammad and discuss matters of mutual interest, the Foreign Office said. Khan, who assumed office in August, last toured Saudi Arabia on September 18 and met King Salman. The conference is now an annual feature in Saudi Arabia. The first conference was held last year, with the participation of 3,800 people from 90 countries.